Love Letters to Moms
For My Mother, Who Glows from the Inside Out
By Jessica Baskerville
Whenever I take the Amtrak to my hometown, as I get off the train and I wait for the train to move so I can cross the tracks, I know that my mom is on the other side, waving with both hands and smiling. It doesn’t matter what kind of day either of us had or the reasons for me coming home, the warm welcome and embrace is an appreciated constant.
My mom is a grounding light for me and for many who know her. Her infectious smile and laugh brighten up everywhere she goes. Over the years this light hasn’t faded, but she’s slowly allowed me to see other parts of herself. As I’ve grown up, we’ve been able to have more serious conversations about life and coming into adulthood. Her authenticity lets me know that everything is going to be alright. The sun in a beautiful summer sunset, the lighthouse through the storm.
To Michelle, my mom, mommy, mama, and ma: Thank you for showing me unconditional love and for showing me how to lead with love. Thank you for being a rock for me. Thank you for being you. I love you so much.
Loving You Is Like Food to My Soul
By Anna Cannady
On a Sunday in May, we’re driving down 16th Street, it’s a drive we’ve done a thousand times before. We’re headed to my mom’s safe place: church. I sit in the front seat, headphones in, the typical sulky teenager trying to block out the world.
My annoying mom is singing loudly along to the radio. Ugh, moms.
As we go on, the singing fades out, gets quieter. Wondering why I can no longer hear her, I look to my left and see my mom has tears in her eyes. SHE’S SO DRAMATIC. I take out my earbuds, wondering what has my mom in such a state, and that’s when I hear the song on the radio.
It’s Mother’s Day, and the station is playing “A Song for Mama” by Boyz II Men.
My mom says quietly, “I miss my mama.” And that’s when I see her, perhaps for the first time.
I see that she’s not just my mom, she’s also a daughter like me. In that moment, she was not my annoying mom, she was a girl, mourning the woman she loved so much she gave me her name.
My mom’s story is one of sacrifice, courage, perseverance, joy, pain, love, and grief. My mom is many things to many people: sister, friend, confidant, caregiver. She’s wonderfully human. And she’s one of the greatest loves of my life.
Years later, we’re taking that same drive, my headphones still in, when I hear a familiar song on the radio.
My beautiful mom is singing, and I’m singing along with her. Now, I cherish this time when our song can be sung as a duet.
One day, it’ll be me in the driver’s seat, singing my love song solo to her.
The Sun Will Always Come Back
By Uzma Chowdhury
When I was three, I was sitting in a pair of beloved pink satin Barbie pajamas with my mother on my parents’ bed, shaking the home-cut bangs out of my eyes to look carefully at a picture that my mother drew me that day.
On a piece of notebook paper torn from a spiral bound notebook, with the perforated edges removed, it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Ballpoint green and red flowers and a highlighter-yellow sun. Underneath, in pencil, in her neat script, was a single sentence. I don’t know if I am remembering because I could already read at that age, or if my adult brain is constructing an image played repeatedly in my mind, because when she gave it to me, she also sang me “You Are My Sunshine.” I think that was the first time I was moved to tears by something.
I was probably so surprised, to be moved to the point of tears for the first time must be a shocking experience to a child. I remember thinking, maybe for the first time ever, how beautiful it is to make someone happy. The line “You make me happy, when skies are gray” seared itself onto my mind, a tattoo.
To be somebody’s sunshine means something very different to me now than it did at three. What used to be just warmth and joy has become something more consistent, reliable, and trusted. But, at 31, I am still turning to the sunshine inside of me, like a flower growing out of its way into a window, when skies are gray. Thank you, Ammu, for reminding me how to always find the light, when it seems to have gone gray, to be a light for others by living a love ethic, and, I’m still working on this, to move through the gray skies with the fierce hope and unshakeable belief that the sunshine will always come back.
Of You and From You
By Crystal Coache
You are the best person I know. These days, people write think-pieces about things that have been second nature to you for a long time.
They call it mutual aid now.
Mutual aid is when you let the woman who showed up at church with no place to stay live with us for a month while she saved money to be able to rent a room apart from the man who abused her. There were lots of people at our church with spare bedrooms, running water that didn’t have rust in it, and pantries full of name brand cereal who never once considered letting her stay with them for even one night. You gave and gave and gave even when you needed, and needed, and needed.
They call it cultural humility now.
Thank you for being willing to change with the times, to evolve as you learn, to be curious instead of judgmental. You were raised by your country and church to discard queer people. You were taught that we were sinners and batty boys and inferior. And you instead chose to love, to learn, to say they and them at 77 years old when addressing my fiancé, to ask me how we’re doing and tell us not to fight. We love you.
They call it fat positive now.
I know that you had a love/hate relationship with your body, especially your belly at times. But by the time I came around, you showed me fashion with your dangly earrings, brightly painted acrylic nails, and the best dresses you could find on the sale rack at Fashion Bug: outfits never meant to blend in or “flatter” but outfits that shouted, “I am here, big, and stunning. See me.”
I used to love to lay my head on your big round belly and press my ear to your navel the way people listen for the ocean in a seashell while you told me stories about when you were a child. I hope one day my children find comfort in my big round belly the way I do in yours.
I am terrified that I won’t have children quickly enough for you to meet them. I find myself recording you when we spend time together, snapping photos of you doing absolutely nothing at all. It is my biggest prayer that you will meet my future children and that they will know you, but I am comforted to know that no matter when my family expands, or how I welcome a child into my home, they will be of you and from you.
Thank you for everything, mom. I am so proud to be “Pauline’s daughter.”
I Do What I Do for Women Like You
By Margie Delao
And if I had the heart to tell you the truth, I would tell you I chose to be a gender justice advocate and fight for equity just for women like you.
I can imagine it now and I immediately chuckle. Because I know you. And if I told you that I work as a non-profit advocate for you, it would immediately lead to a raised eyebrow and the age-old line, “You should have become a doctor or corporate lawyer, you still have time!”
“Something that makes a lot of money” … as you always say. But not so I can buy fancy things. You always complain when I buy anything full price.
But I know you say these things so when I become a mother, I would never have to worry in the ways that you did when life had come crashing down on you. But I promise I do what I do so women and girls have the chance at opportunities when resources are scarce, opportunity is opaque, and support is sparse, so they wouldn’t have to hurt in the ways these things hurt us two.
I would also respond to that age-old line, “But I am wealthy. It’s true!” I feel wealthy having a mother who would spend the few hours a week she had off of her shifts as a waitress to take me around town and worked three jobs for a period of time just so I could graduate college.
But I’ll admit at times, it does feel like a double-edged sword because as a woman and mother, you deserved compassion and empathy from the world and even then. So, so much more.
“But let’s not talk about the sad things anymore” … another one of your favorite lines. And I will end my letter with an “I love you, mom,” and let you know again that I am proud of everything you have done for me and you.
Legacy of Love
By Layla Ellaisy
When I think of the women in my life, I am completely in awe of their strength, fortitude, and resilience. Each of them has broken their own set of chains in order for the next generation to walk boldly in freedom. Each one of them has fought fiercely, tattooing their character into the DNA of their linage.
Jiddah Sadiyah, who was born and raised in Egypt with the inability to read or write but made sure her children understood the value of education.
Bertha Mae Holloman, who moved her family of eight from Spartanburg, SC to Philadelphia, PA to provide better economic stability and opportunities for her family.
Carlstein Passarelli, who used her talents and gifts to create an album that lives on all streaming platforms for the world to hear.
My beautiful mother, Marki Levere, who single-handedly worked and put herself through school to provide a better life for her daughter.
Each of them has molded me into the woman I am today, so I need to express my sincerest gratitude. Thank you for being a true matriarch. Thank you for choosing me to be a part of your lineage and being so willing to teach and pass down your gifts and light. Thank you for showing me that there are no barriers that stand in the way of authentic, unconditional, and perfect love. And most importantly, thank you for defining what it means to be a queen and to hold her own.
Happy Mother’s Day. I promise to forever cherish your souls.
To My Grandmom Meg
By Olivia Keithley
I can still hear your voice calling out “30-love” on the tennis court. You taught me how to serve and the importance of an open stance both on and off the court. I can still taste the fruitcake cookies you’d bake during the holidays. You’d send them in for my teachers and remind me they had the toughest job. I can still hear the way you’d say “shucks” after getting dealt a bad hand in cards. I remember you playing the hand anyway, somehow turning it into gold. I can still see you beaming with joy at every milestone for your grandkids, reminding us all of the importance of always showing up.
You hated being short, but I remember as a little girl hoping I stayed short so I could be just like you. I wanted to live a life like yours—packed with adventure and making friends everywhere along the way. You’d get off the airplane and talk to the person you sat next to all the way to curbside pick-up. You kayaked, hiked, zip lined, biked, snorkeled, and explored everywhere we went. Through it all, you taught me a balance between independence and connection that I am still trying to cultivate in my own life.
Grandmom Meg—you loved us all so well and in doing so you taught us all how to love one another better. And on this first Mother’s Day without you, I hope one day to be for my granddaughter who you were for me.
What Love Does
By Amy Royce
When I picture my mom from when I was a kid, I see her at the door of my elementary school classroom, with a huge smile on her face, holding a picture book. It’s the day of the week when she comes to read a story to my class. She volunteered to do this every year, to the delight of each and every one of my teachers. “Of course!” they would say, “I’d love to have a story reader!”
And she was the best. A theater major in college and a lifelong actor, she drew us into the stories and gave each character its own memorable voice. We were spellbound, and I loved that it was my mom that brought all my classmates so much joy.
Now that I have an elementary schooler of my own, I’ve realized something else about those times in my classrooms. She didn’t have to. She did it out of love. She didn’t have to lead my Girl Scout troop, or listen and applaud the plays my friends made up, or fill my birthdays with such surprise and delight that I felt like the most special kid in the world. It was so normal to me at the time. But now I realize how much it took for her to take such good care of me, my sister, and our whole community.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I tell you all the time that I love you. I probably don’t tell you enough that I see all that you do to love everyone around you. It feels inadequate to say thank you, but thank you. For the joy and wonder you brought to me then, and the boundless love ever since.
The Runaway Time Traveler
By Tanuja Tase
My mother tells me she always wanted to be a mother. “I used to tell people I wanted a hundred children,” she laughs.
I am a child sitting crisscross applesauce in my pajamas, my head bobbing up and down as I nod off. My mother’s warm fingers run jasmine oil through my hair. She tells me stories about her grandmother, my great-grandmother, who did the same to her when she was little.
It hadn’t occurred to me that my mother is also a granddaughter, like me. Very strange to know this woman braiding my hair only as Mother, Aai, and Mama. As only a weaver of bedtime stories in the candlelight; as the driver making a surprise left turn at our street corner to take me for late-night ice cream; as an expert brewer of tea; as a testament to the strength in softness and the bravery in dreaming.
In bed, I dream of my mother in technicolor, young and surefooted on the sweltering streets of India. In my dream, I am a time traveler peeking around corners to get a glance at her. I wonder if her step would falter for a moment if she caught sight of me, a subconscious recognition sparking in her eyes. I watch as she bikes down a hill on the way to school, her feet lifted off the peddles like she’s flying, her hair whirling behind her into tangles for her grandmother to comb through. In my time machine, I finally know her as everyone else does, a friend, a classmate, a daughter, a stranger. I wake up with wet eyes feeling the loss of this dream life, as though saying goodbye to her a million times. Yet, my mother is in the next room. I know she will be here soon.
A Dragon Lives Forever
By Nancy Withbroe
The first music I remember hearing was social justice folk sung by you plus Peter, Paul, and Mary and Joan Baez. You’d pull out the worn albums and put the records on the hi-fi, singing along and dancing while you dusted and ironed, turning the volume way up when you were vacuuming. Sometimes you’d sit and listen, a little teary, especially if you’d just finished reading the newspaper’s latest accounts of the Vietnam War, the energy crisis, and other horrors of the early 1970s. I could sense that somehow the music steadied you and lifted your spirits. Then you’d be ready to explain to your little girls what was happening, why, and most of all our obligation to grow into adults who would contribute to making the world more just.
Once Chris (my sister) and I were old enough to be assigned chores, you’d put the music on to coax us into being a little less cranky about doing what I now can see as our fair share of helping you manage our household. Maybe it helped you be a little more patient with our complaining. And though I didn’t realize it, you were teaching me to listen closely, to harmonize, and to connect activism to concrete, practical tasks.
After I became a mom, whenever you and Dad would host my sons for sleepovers, at bedtime you’d put on a tape of Peter, Paul, and Mary’s greatest hits, softly leading them through Puff the Magic Dragon. Like me, their earliest memories are of being called into hope, peace, and justice through the gentle, loving practice of joining their voices with activists in song. They would drift off to sleep imagining a world full of possibility, frolicking, and adventure – and the wistful knowledge that growing up means taking on serious responsibilities.
On this Mother’s Day, thank you for the songs you’ve taught my boys and me. I promise we will teach future generations to harmonize while frolicking in the autumn mist.